I came back from the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) Conference full of energy and ideas and ready to share them with you. Then, somehow, this month just galloped away from me! However, I am still super excited about what came out of the presentation and wanted to tell you.
The standing room only crowd at our presentation is proof that museums are eager to reach out to new audiences and bring people into their museum. The group that came to talk about young children was very earnest in their desire to bring in preschool aged kids and their families and also woo back the school groups that have been dropping off due to budget/travel restraints.
Something that was repeated over and over again was the lament that they are told that schools can’t afford to come and see the community museum but “will put everyone on a bus and take them to D.C. or Williamsburg.” You can kind of see where the schools are coming from since both of those locations give a lot of “bang for the buck” in terms of what you will see and the amount of history you can cram into a long weekend. But it is a shame that it comes at the expense of the small museums closer to home.
As I listened to everyone I realized that what we need is a “Locally Sourced Culture” movement. Farm-to-Table hit it big because people wanted to know where their food was coming from, and to support the people in their communities. Well, we should know where our culture comes from too…and what better way to do that then through supporting our local cultural institutions?
This doesn’t mean you can the trip to D.C. and it doesn’t mean the audience/consumer is responsible for turning things around. Museums also have to draw a mental radius around themselves and see who is in their community that they can reach out to, then do it. Start the dialogue with the schools, churches, Senior Centers, businesses, residents and other community partners and see where it takes you.
For the next round on the conference circuit I’m hoping to pull together a simple framework for getting this conversation started. Something that will be useful to small and large institutions and the communities that want to better use what is right around them. I’m excited to see where this Locally Sourced Culture idea could go. Let me know if you want to help!